As a parent, body safety is one of the most important things to teach your children. The world can be unsafe and you want to make sure that your child knows how to handle themselves in different situations. We have 8 body safety rules for parents to teach their kids so they are better prepared for anything!
What is Body Safety?
Body safety is about teaching your child how to protect themselves from inappropriate contact. It is teaching them body boundaries and self-awareness so they know what parts of their body are private, when someone should keep their distance, and if something doesn’t feel right—they should tell you or another trusted adult immediately!
Why “Stranger Danger” isn’t good enough
Most of us know the cliche of stranger danger that we were taught as kids. But teaching kids that strangers are dangerous is not good enough. The vast majority of child abuse cases are someone the child knows. Teaching body safety is about teaching your child that every body is good.
The role of pornography in sexual abuse
Child predators often use pornography to desensitize children and teens. They show the child pornography without their consent, then they start showing them images that are more aggressive—and eventually it turns into contact abuse. Teaching body safety rules is a great way to protect your kids from early exposure to porn as well as any other form of violation!
4 Strategies to protect kids from sexual abuse
Here are 4 strategies you can use to help protect your kids from body violation:
The best way to prevent abuse is to eliminate the opportunity for it to occur. This means limiting the number of people who are allowed to watch your children alone, setting firm rules about sleepovers and private playdates.
It would be easy to move into controlling parent territory, so it’s important to find a balance. You don’t want to isolate your kids for the sake of minimizing opportunities for abuse, but at the same time, be cautious and selective about the caregivers for your child.
Body Safety Rules
Create a set of body safety rules that you teach your kids. Continue to discuss and practice these rules to help your child internalize them.
- Use the proper name. Giving nicknames to your child’s private parts can be confusing. For example, calling their penis a “pee-pee” can lead to body shame and body secrecy about puberty development.
- You’re the boss of your body. Your child’s body is their own, and they are not required to do anything with their body that they don’t want to.
- Discuss good touch vs. bad touch. Give your kids concrete examples of what good touches look like and what bad touches look like. For example, holding hands, fist bumps, and high fives are benign. Thigh rubbing, breast grabbing, and butt pinching are totally unacceptable.
- Teach and practice consent. Give your child complete control of their own body by allowing them alone to provide consent. This means no requiring hugs when Aunt Sally visits for the weekend and no coerced foot rubs for granny.
- No secrets. Explain to your kids that secrets are never ok. Keeping secrets is a slippery slope, and can lead to inappropriate behavior. Instead, practice using “surprises”, where you might keep something private for a short time, but mom and dad will always find out the surprise.
- No pictures, ever. Talk about the permanency of photographs, especially digital ones on the internet, and discuss that it’s never acceptable to take pictures (or videos) of anyone’s private parts.
- If it’s uncomfortable, speak up. Encourage kids to trust their instincts. If something feels wrong, it probably is. Tell them it’s always ok to speak up about their feelings.
- How to say no and stop. Help kids find their voice by practicing and role playing “no” and “stop”. Empowering kids to speak for themselves will benefit them greatly, even as adults.
Create a Body Safety Network
Identify a couple (2 to 3) other adults that you and your child are comfortable with. They should be people you trust deeply. Create a body safety network for you kids by encouraging them to open up to these trusted adults if they ever need help.
I know you’re probably thinking “but I want my kids to talk to me!“. We all do… but sometimes kids aren’t comfortable talking to mom. If they have other adults they can reach out to, they’re more likely to confide in someone to get the help they need.
Have Body Safety Check Ins
Check in with your child regularly about their body safety. This is especially important when they start new activities, visit with new people, and spend time in new environments. You can ask questions like “Did anything make you feel unsafe at your Girl Scout camp this weekend?” or “Did anything happen that made you feel weird at gymnastics today?”
The short and long term impact of sexual abuse
Short term consequences of abuse may include trauma, injuries, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and/or pregnancy.
Abuse can have life-long consequences. It can lead to body shaming, body secrecy, body fear, sexual risk taking behaviors, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Bottom Line
Body safety is important. And it should start as early as possible by practicing consent, using the correct body part names, and discouraging secrets. Parents can create body safety networks, have body check ins with their kids, and teach boundaries.
What You Should Do Next…
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